Florida Proposes End to Costly Juvenile Court Fees

The Imprint •
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Seeking to join the roster of states that have sought to ease the financial impact of juvenile court fees on families, a bipartisan group of Florida state lawmakers filed two companion measures that would prohibit such charges in the Sunshine State.

While the idea of charging youth and families court fees and fines to help defray the cost of investigation and adjudication of offenders was pitched as reasonable when they were proposed, experience has shown them to be problematic, even counterproductive in real life.

According to a nationwide study by the Juvenile Law Center from 2016, the charges tend to increase recidivism, suck kids further into the juvenile justice system, aggravate existing racial disparities and further strain families that are already struggling financially and emotionally. Given that so many juveniles and families can’t afford to pay them, they are expensive to administer and collect, and lead to longer lockups for youth — at great expense to taxpayers.

About the Expert

Jessica Feierman oversees Juvenile Law Center’s projects and programs. Feierman currently leads a national effort to end fines and fees in the juvenile justice system and is engaged in litigation aimed at eliminating solitary confinement and other abusive practices in juvenile facilities.

Nadia Mozaffar is a Senior Attorney at Juvenile Law Center. Her work focuses on advancing educational rights and opportunities for children in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, economic justice issues, and protecting the rights of young people in the adult justice system.

Andrew Keats joined Juvenile Law Center as a staff attorney in 2018. During his time at Juvenile Law Center, Andrew has engaged in policy advocacy efforts to eliminate fines and fees from the juvenile justice system as well as conducting research and advocacy to increase confidentiality and expungement protections for youth with juvenile records. Currently Andrew is focused on litigation to prevent youth from being tried as adults in the criminal justice system and ensuring those who are tried as adults do not receive the state’s harshest punishments and instead are afforded a meaningful opportunity for release. Andrew has also authored numerous amicus briefs in state supreme courts around the county.

Lindsey E. Smith works in partnership with advocates across the country to fight poverty punishments imposed on young people and families as part of the national Debt Free Justice campaign. Since joining Juvenile Law Center in 2020, she has written appellate briefs, developed and conducted trainings for in-court advocacy, and co-authored the recent report Reimagining Restitution: New Approaches to Support Youth and Communities.